The growing chorus of Congressional Democrats critical of President Donald Trump’s policies was on display last week when Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan circulated a letter among his colleagues expressing opposition to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion that Israeli communities built across the former Green Line are not in violation of international law. Rather than exemplifying one point of disagreement, the letters listed four other examples of Trump’s shifting of longstanding American principles concerning Israel and the Palestinians.
“This announcement, following the administration’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem outside of a negotiated agreement; its closure of the Palestinian mission in Washington, DC, and the US Consulate in Jerusalem; and its halting of aid Congress appropriated to the West Bank and Gaza, has discredited the United States as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, severely damaged prospects for peace, and endangered the security of America, Israel, and the Palestinian people.”
The letter notes that “settlement expansion into the occupied West Bank makes a contiguous Palestinian state unviable,” but even if Israel were to step back from the entirety of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, a Palestinian state still wouldn’t be contiguous because the Gaza Strip is separated from the West Bank by 25 miles of land that is internationally recognized as Israeli. The same people who complain about Palestinian areas being non-contiguous would have no problem cutting Israel in two in order to forge a unified Palestinian entity.
That all four members of the “Squad” signed on, along with predictably hostile lawmakers such as Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, and Hank Johnson of Georgia, comes as no surprise. Equally predictable are the signatures of Jewish lawmakers with long records of opposing Israeli building in Judea and Samaria, such as Reps. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, and John Yarmuth of Kentucky. In total, that’s 107 out of the 233 Democrats in the House of Representatives.
If there is still any remaining hope for supporters of a strong Israel that the Democratic Party has not entirely turned hostile towards Israel, it is the delegation from our state, with only five out of 27 New Yorkers signing on. From New York City, only Reps. Nydia Velazquez, Jose Serrano, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez signed on.
To imagine the pressure that their urban colleagues have faced can be gleaned from the wording of the letter:
“We write to express our strong disagreement with the State Department’s decision to reverse decades of bipartisan US policy on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank by repudiating the 1978 State Department legal opinion that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are ‘inconsistent with international law.’”
That’s three Democratic and four Republican administrations, giving the appearance that opposition to Israeli settlements is not exclusive to the Democratic Party.
In reality, what President Trump did was to confirm the popular opinion of the American public as it concerns Israel. Unlike our failed peace negotiators and their attempts to appear as impartial “honest brokers,” the public has always been more supportive of Israel than the quasi-state of Palestine.
One can imagine the phone calls, letters, and tweets directed at our local Representatives from Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, The Jewish Vote, and like-minded leftist Jewish groups that speak in the name of our people. Likewise for Reps. Levin and Cohen, whose positions are also unrepresentative of most American Jews.
We should thank Rep. Grace Meng, who represents most of this newspaper’s coverage area, and Rep. Greg Meeks, the Queens County party chair whose district includes Far Rockaway, for not signing onto Rep. Levin’s letter. Likewise for outspoken Trump critic Rep. Jerry Nadler, who declined to sign. Their absence from Rep. Levin’s letter should be recognized, as it is vital in maintaining bipartisan support for a strong Israel.
By Sergey Kadinsky